Risks Versus Consequences of Adolescent and Young Adult Substance Use: a Focus on Executive Control

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: This review examines the role of executive control processes in the liability for substance misuse and whether substance use, once initiated, leads to subsequent decrements as proposed by neurotoxicity models of substance use disorder (SUD). Recent Findings: As indicated by a number of recent meta-analyses, executive control processes, which include working memory, cognitive flexibility, and numerous aspects of attentional, behavioral, and emotional control, are impaired in the context of active SUD. Longitudinal studies of behaviorally disinhibited children, individuals with familial risks for SUD, and twins within whom genetic versus environmental influences on behavior can be modeled robustly indicate that relatively poor control is a vulnerability factor for early substance use initiation, binge patterns of use, and subsequent SUD. Evidence of further declines in executive control, once substance use is initiated, is mixed, although a growing number of neuroimaging studies indicate that frontostriatal, frontolimbic, and frontocerebellar systems are altered as a consequence of use. Summary: Together these patterns suggest strategies for identifying children and adolescents at high risk for SUD, avenues through which substance-related neurotoxicities can be more reliably detected, and the need to structure prevention efforts in a manner that is developmentally appropriate and perhaps personalized to individual vulnerabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-463
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Addiction Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants U01DA041120 and R56MH122473. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Adolescence
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Executive function
  • Neurotoxicity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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